For an ambitious young scientist, few things are as educational and professionally beneficial as a research period abroad. The Jeff Schell Scholarship, funded by Bayer, provides this experience by supporting students and graduates in international research exchanges.
Recent German scholarship recipient Anna Zimmermann seized this chance: the bright master’s degree student just returned to Germany from Portugal, where she completed a research stay at the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, in Lisbon. “I joined a big international research project and profited from the insights I gained during the scholarship period,” says Zimmermann.
The goal of her Portugal research was to establish a more efficient mechanism of photosynthesis in crop plants such as wheat and soy, so as to increase their yield. “More efficient photosynthesis is important since we need to produce enough food for a growing population despite decreasing arable land and drier conditions caused by climate change,” Zimmermann notes.
“In the scope of my master’s thesis project, I investigated five different regulatory proteins which may play an important role in photosynthesis.” Her results provided a good start: “We could detect six different interactions among the five regulators. To what extent they are biologically relevant will need to be evaluated in further experiments.”
The scholarship was named for Jozef “Jeff” Schell, who became famous in 1983, along with his colleague Marc Van Montagu, for the discovery of a gene transfer mechanism between a soil bacterium and plants. By chance, Anna Zimmermann met with Schell’s former colleague, Van Montagu, when he held a presentation in Portugal during her research period. The experience was deeply inspiring: “It was really impressive. He has enormous knowledge of the progress in plant research and how innovations can be used today.”
Besides the scholarship’s academic and personal benefits, the program’s financial support was also very important: “It enables you to focus on your research instead of worrying about the funding,” says Zimmermann. She found her entire experience in Portugal highly valuable and recommends the scholarship to anyone who desires a research stay abroad.
Another aspect that scholarship holders benefit from is direct exchange with Bayer researchers. The fellows are invited to the Crop Science headquarters in Germany, where they can experience a tour through the research institutes on-site. Moreover, the annual Bayer Foundation’s Alumni Dialogue fosters the exchange between junior researchers and Bayer employees. Each year, scholarship recipients are invited to interact with experienced, award-winning scientists. After meeting with Bayer experts, Zimmermann landed an internship at Bayer that will follow her master’s thesis. She feels that this internship will allow her to find out exactly where her interests are: “During my stay in Portugal, I learned how essential it is to take the time you need to figure out what your goals are and what you want to reach in life. And that you should not take the predefined path just because it is easier – that was one of the most important lessons for me,” she states. Following her internship, Zimmermann now plans to do a doctorate. In the meantime, she will finish her master’s degree in plant biotechnology at Leibniz University in Hannover, Germany, with an internationally-based thesis.
For Zimmermann, her research experience was a big step in her academic career: “It gave me the chance to broaden my horizons and make contacts with many interesting scientists abroad.” Furthermore, she appreciated the chance to improve her knowledge of methodology, since the necessary research methods are not taught in the same way at her faculty in Germany. “My laboratory work was an enormously educational experience.”
In our modern society, awareness of where our food comes from is shrinking. Many children have no idea as to how their cereals are produced or what flour is made of. At the same time, farmers and agricultural scientists face the demanding challenge of keeping up with the nutritional demands for a growing world population.
Bayer aims to encourage young people to think about global food supply and sustainable agriculture. New solutions and creative ideas are needed to provide healthy food for current and future generations. The Agricultural Education Program encourages the next generation to get active, discuss, come up with ideas, conduct research, and explore the future of agriculture.
For young academics at the beginning of their careers, a research stay abroad is the perfect opportunity to broaden their horizons and grow professionally and personally. Bayer’s Jeff Schell Scholarship provides support for junior academics in agriculture that have international research plans. During their stay abroad, the scholarship’s financial assistance enables recipients to focus entirely on their agricultural projects. Furthermore, various personal and academic benefits await. Scholarship participants can join a network of international researchers, get in touch with pioneers in agricultural science, and meet Bayer experts. Thus, scholarship holders benefit personally and professionally during their research stay and beyond. With this program, Bayer supports capable and inspired young talents who can make a difference in the future of farming.
Are you a young academic with an Ag project and wish to research outside your home country? If so, the Jeff Schell Scholarship may be for you. The scholarship supports students and young professionals age 18-28, up to two years post-graduation, for a variety of research projects including internships, thesis works, study courses or summer school programs. Any young academic may apply so long as they plan a research project outside of their home country.
For the application, you need a description of your project (duration of 2 to 12 months) and a financial plan, along with a confirmation letter from your host university, your most recent transcripts, and a self-photo. Further information on the application process is available online here.